When I read A Corner of White last year, I was instantly transported and enchanted by the concept and characters. I know not everyone felt the same. That book is divisive. I don't think reading The Cracks in the Kingdom will change the minds of those who didn't like it. For those who did like the first book, the second is even better, building on the story in the first and expanding it.
This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher.
Princess Ko's been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can't get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens -- each with a special ability -- from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.
Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot's value to the Alliance is clear: He's the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.
Through notes, letters, and late nights, Elliot and Madeleine must find a way to travel across worlds and bring missing loved ones home.
This is a hard review to write because I don't want to say too much. As the first, this is sort of an experience you have to have yourself. There are some things I want to highlight though.
The world that Moriarty created and introduced in the first book is just as vivid and real in this one. Cello is such a concrete place for me, and continues to be even more concrete than our real world which Madeleine lives in. Cello is where the more interesting parts of the story take place too. The politics of that world are snarled and growing more snarled by the day. As I love a good political intrigue book, this made me a happy reader. The Youth Alliance Elliot finds himself a part of to help find the princess's family has some volatile dynamics. I really liked how very much the members acted their age though. They are amazingly gifted, and yet they are all under 16 and you can clearly see that in their interactions and the things they get up to.
Madeleine is working diligently in the world, trying to find the missing royals. Again, the interactions between Madeleine and Elliot are crucial to the flow and movement of the story. They are exchanging notes more quickly until they are real time conversations. They are also attempting to widen the crack and break through to figure out how to return the royals. In the process they are discovering each other slowly and it is a beautiful thing to see unfold. I couldn't help but be reminded of how relationships that begin online unfold as I was reading it. The way they make assumptions about each other's looks and habits, building whole people out of the spaces between words on paper. And slowly they are drawing closer to that moment when they may have to confront the reality of each other. So fascinating and emotionally riveting. They experience and share so much together and they've never even met.
Just as the world of Cello seems more concrete, so does Elliot as a character. Not that I think Madeleine is flat or insubstantial. Quite the contrary, but I do feel like she is shrouded in a lot more mystery. We get a clearer picture of Jack and Belle and their pasts, but not Madeleine's. I'm beginning to wonder about that, but feel the obvious conclusion is so obvious it must not be the right one. So now I'm trying to come up with alternate conclusions, and this is one of the things I love most about these books. They exercise my mind and keep me thinking about them. They pretty much take over. I have dreams about aspects of them. That is a wonderful sort of book to read. Elliot shows more and more what a true hero he is. He has so many flaws, but is so laudable at the same time. He is young too, and that was easier to overlook in the first book I think. His youth and everything he still has to figure out about the world is a little more obvious in this one.
There are couple plot points in this that took me by complete surprise and that hasn't happened to me in quite some time. Another reason I am so enamored. I absolutely can not wait for the third book. Sitting on pins and needles waiting for it.
I read ARC won from the publisher, Arthur Levine, in a Goodreads giveaway. The Cracks in the Kingdom is available on March 25.